This photo was taken by Sergeant Bruce Martin on the morning of October 13th, 1967, after the night battle. The main march in for Operation Medina from the landing zone (“LZ Dove”) began on October the 12th, 1967, and they basically cut a path through this heavy jungle. It’s the Highland National Forest. The gentleman standing in the middle is Captain Bill Major, and on the left, Marine Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Thompson. On the right is Lance Corporal Michael Lavalley, who was Captain Major’s radio operator. He was killed by a sniper shortly after this operation.
When you look at the photo you can see the fatigue and the stress on their faces, having survived the night ambush.
The photo appears in my book, Lions of Medina. 

Why I chose to write about this obscure battle:
I was inspired by the excellent press that the World War 2 veterans were given in the late 90s early 2000s, specifically “Saving Private Ryan” and “Band of Brothers”, which are based on fact. I noticed at the time that there was very little, almost nothing, about the Vietnam War. It was not a popular war and a lot of the men and women who served in it were not treated very well when they came home. People wanted to forget about it and they certainly didn’t want to remember any specific battles.
So I saw this as a miss in the story of our country and knew kind of intrinsically, that there were some very moving, heartbreaking and dramatic stories out there that were going to go untold. And these veterans were not getting any younger; a lot of them suffered from cancer as a result of Agent Orange, and we weren’t going to have them for very long. It was a conflict that I had grown up hearing about and I felt that I should tell that story and give some credit to those veterans.
So I just basically got on the Internet and started to send out emails. Within a day, I got a response from a veteran in Western Kentucky. I lived in Louisville, KY at the time and he told me, “You need to write about this operation I was on called Medina.” I got a little bit of a synopsis from him, then went out to meet him. He gave me some moonshine and some beans, and we had a great talk. I knew then that that would be my story.
As with many of the conflicts in Vietnam, the Americans were often outnumbered, and put in a hard place to survive. This was very similar to the Battle of the Alamo, which I grew up learning about, being from Texas!
Listening to that veteran’s story I thought “It’s like the Spartan 300 at Thermopylae, but nobody knows about it.” It’s never been told. There’s no history. There are very few articles about it, certainly no oral histories. So. That was basically it. Just a story of a group of young men holding on in the face of overwhelming odds. And, you know, fighting for their brothers next to them. And I said, “OK, here’s my story.” So that’s how I got into writing about Operation Medina.